Friday, December 31, 2004

GTD: Processing Stage completed!
Whew. That took a whole lot longer than I thought it would. A few factors contributed to it's length. One: I chose to Process every single thing I could find and think of at work and home. This created a Very Large pile in my inbox. This factor I think was 50% of the reason it took so long to process. Two: Since my office is at home, it is difficult for me to completely sequester myself for hours at a time. Not because it is physically impossible, though. This well built office (if I do say so myself) can keep all "house" sounds out when all the doors are closed, and I have the ability to turn off phones and the computer. The problem is that I have this really good excuse for peeking my head out of the office door and wandering the house: Aidan (here doing his best "Magnum" pose). This is an internal problem having nothing to do with the GTD process or my physical location. Three: As I commented here, it was discouraging to come face to face (again!) with my own procrastination. Oh, and I went on vacation to Miami. That held things up, too.

Here's what my credenza looks like After InBox Processing. (Before)

The pile in the left most box is only Next Action items. Those are the items that have been "deferred" while I'm in the middle of the GTD set-up process. Three of the four file boxes are in use holding Reference Files, Incubating Files, and Action Reminder Files.

Before starting Chapter 7: Organizing, a few more observations about the Processing stage. As I went through the InBox, I realized that I had put reminders for actions in almost every place I could in my office. I hadn't realized how widespread my reminder system was until I went through it all at once. In no particular order, here's where I found things that were supposed to trigger actions: bulletin board, desktop, booksheves, "deep" physical filing system, stacks piled on the floor, the mini-filing system on my desktop, digital calendar, digital desktop, email inbox, digital to-do list, Quicken, and that only counts my Office. This, I realized, has two effects: one is that for me to know what I need to do next (and feel like I'm not missing anything), I have to look in all of those places. The second is that everywhere I looked in my office, even when I wasn't looking for something to do, I saw something to do. Some folks tell me that they can focus so tightly that they don't need a clear space to work. Regardless of whether I believe that or not (I have my doubts), for me, if I see something that might need to be done, it's hard not to start thinking about it, even if I've already got an open project in front of me. I can (and have) by force of will, focus on the work at hand, but I'd much rather expend that force of will on doing actual project, not just bringing my eyes back to the project.

Practically, what happened was I didn't look in all the places I'd placed reminders for action and so would completely forget about responsibilities I had, until it was the night before/morning of and suddenly I remembered that I needed to write that report, with all the accompanying self-recrimination for not doing it before and frustration about putting myself in this compromising position. One of the things David is trying to build in GTD is a physical place that houses all of those reminders. This won't make up for weakness of will (akrasia, the Greeks call it) in getting up the do-my-work hill, but it makes that hill a little less steep.

Another thing I noted is that previously I'd confused "Processing" as the whole GTD approach. I see now that there's more to GTD than just "getting the In Box to 'empty'". GTD is the system for housing all your action items, the explicit disciplines for looking at and doing those actions, and the physical system for housing the support documents for said actions.

Personally, as I went through Processing, I realized (again) that I really do enjoy strategizing, planning and implementing projects. As projects began to take shape out of the InBox (they'd previously been lost and scattered across the office), I got really excited about being able to come back to them and work hard and well on them. What had been frustrating me was that I would never get to those projects because I would allow the combination of Not-Sure-Where-To-Start, plus Not-Sure-Where-It-Is to stymie me and push me to piddling through my day doing little one-shot "urgent" items. These might be email requests, incoming phone calls, or administration miscellany.

If you've read it, Charles Hummel's Freedom from Tyranny of the Urgent might be coming to mind at this point. Charles advocates this process: Set Priorities, Take Inventory, Budget Time, Implement Plan. David would not argue with this but radically expands it. David has specific advice on how to Take Inventory (Processing). I think that GTD also does a good job taking into account that the other three parts of Charles' approach are in far more tension and dynamic relationship than noted in Tyranny. (The thrust of Tyranny is to help set & evaluate one's life & work priorities, which assist in getting things done. I'd highly recommend it if you need help saying, "No," to things and are looking for a Christian approach to use of time and resources.) In short, GTD does a better job of helping one get things done than Tyranny, but Tyranny is more about life priorities anyway.

Next step: "Organizing - Setting Up the Right Buckets". But there's no sense in doing it on an empty stomach. I'll start that after lunch.

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Thursday, December 23, 2004

The Future of Media? Slashdot has a post on the future past of media. Here is the 8 minute flash video documentary created in 2014 by the "Museum of Medai History". I thought it was really interesting. Definitely something fun to talk about over Christmas dinner, at any rate.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Donna's Breath of Heaven. My friend, Donna, sang "Breath of Heaven" this morning at our worship service. Donna is a tough lawyer in a tough practice ("Family Law" as we lawyers call it, with unconscious irony, meaning that she does divorces.) My relationship with Donna has been a difficult one these last two years, because she was married to my friend Brad and the two of them went through some difficult times with each other that finally ended in divorce. (Brad attends our Friday morning breakfast/Bible study.)

So when I learned that Donna was going to sing this song, a song in which the female singer assumes the person of Mary, the mother of Jesus, I just didn't think it fit very well. I have this picture of Mary, the mother of Jesus. It doesn't square with the picture of a tough, female, divorce lawyer. It doesn't square with Donna, although, as I thought about it, she too is a mother and very devoted to her son, David.

But Donna did sing "Breath of Heaven" this morning, and she nailed it.

As I listened to her sing that song, with my eyes glistening, I reconsidered my picture of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Maybe I had Mary wrong, maybe she and Donna have more in common than I realize.

We don't know much about Mary, really, unless we go outside the Gospels to tradition. With all due respect to my Roman Catholic friends, I don't find the tradition helpful. In fact, I find it confusing and disturbing. (I will concede this: our Catholic friends challenge us Protestants to think about Mary carefully, as we ought to do.)

So how can we know Mary better? I think we can look at Jesus and observe how he dealt with the women who came into his life. I would submit that he learned how to treat women from his mother. He saw in the various women that he meets in the Gospels what Mary showed him about women. She prepared him to love women, respect them, and deal with them redemptively.

For example, take the "woman at the well". She was a tough one. She must have been very attractive to men. She had gone through several husbands and, when she met Jesus, was keeping time with yet another man and they were not married. Yet Jesus was comfortable with this woman. She did not intimidate him a bit and he, in failing to be intimidated, did not put her off. In fact, he challenged her and won her completely. She turned out to be the very first evangelist that we know about in the Bible. (Imagine that, a woman, the first evangelist. I bet you thought it was Philip.)

Jesus knew how to deal with strong women because, I think, his mother was a strong woman, a tough woman, a woman who could continue to live in Nazareth with a dubious history. Look at the son she raised - a pretty tough young man himself. May I say that there was something of the "woman at the well" in Mary without offending my Catholic friends? Something Jesus recognized, appreciated, and, finally, loved.

So when Donna sang "Breath of Heaven", I learned something about Mary, the mother of Jesus, and I learned a little more about Jesus. I also realized it was fine for Donna to assume Mary's persona and sing that song. Fine and right.
How Many Christians in the Middle East? I would say everyone over there is a Christian. Christ came on Christmas for all of them (and us) and died for all of them. Looking at the world as divided between Christian and Muslim, Chritian and Hindu, Christian and Buddist, creates a perception that Jesus may not have intended. We objectify the people who are "outside the church". Is it helpful to describe the target market for the work of the Holy Spirit as the Christian Market, the market Christ chose?

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Medical Services. Over on Sean's blog, he raises the question of the high cost of medical services and related issues, and he invited me to comment on a point he made about lawyers. He set me to thinking again about the Canadian/British systems, and recalled to my mind a story.

A friend of ours is from England and her parents, middle aged, still live there. Her mother developed a heart problem and needs an operation to replace a valve. Her mortality risk is significantly higher now than it will be after the operation. She must wait several months, because of the sort of rationing system that the British approach imposes. My friend's parents are a hard working, middle class couple. If they lived in the US, they would have medical insurance. I doubt a cardiologist here would run the risk of delay. There would be no reason for him to delay the procedure, of course, because the needed medical resources are immediately available here, provided the patient lives long enough to qualify for medicare or is in the private insurance system, or (sometimes) finds some charitable support.

My friend's parents wanted to come to the US to visit recently. But the scheduled heart procedure was (and continues to be) months away. If they left England and came to the US, and, while here, she had a problem, they would have to pay for treatment here out of their own pocket. The British health system would not pay for American treatment. Getting back to England for the operation, now an emergency, could be dicey. They could buy health insurance just for the trip, but the cost would be quite expensive.

They decided to come anyway, without buying a special insurance policy. Everything turned out fine. They are back in England after a nice trip, but still waiting. They assumed the risk that she would have problems here. The risk did not materialize.

But economists would attach a value to the risk she assumed. They paid something, in a way, just as their countrymen, in a way, pay for not being out-of-pocket for their medical services. They paid by assuming the risk of delay and the additional risk of moving for a few weeks completely out of the system. How do you get to the value of that payment?

If you had a large enough group of English parents like my friend's parents who made the trip, at least one mother would have a heart attack while here. She might have died or, at least, she would have had to pay a lot of money for treatment and emergency transportation back to England. The "cost" of assuming the risk that my friend's parents assumed is the value of the hypothetical life (or the expenses, if the hypothetical, stricken mother lived) divided by the number of middle-aged English couples in our group.

That same approach can be applied to the mortality risk that my friend's parents have imposed upon them by the British system as they wait around for the operation. There are people who die over there waiting for their operation, people who would have survived had the operation been as prompt as it would be here. On the other hand, people die here because they are uninsured, have no money and cannot for one reason or another (sometimes ignorance sometimes not) get into the charitable system that will sometimes answer. Both systems have costs, to be sure. I think we tend to overlook the cost of the British system because it is so subtle.

There are other problems with the British system that I will not address in this post, but I thought the story illustrates one of them.

Edited at 10:20am by Macon to link to germane post of Sean's.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Gail Berger's Prayer Letter. Carol and I met Gail last summer. She is a friend of our minister, Van Lahmeyer, and met him when he pastored her church in Alaska. She is now a missionary with "Alongside Ministries" in Albania. She had been there for a short term mission a year or so ago, but decided to go back for what I would call a "plenary call", starting three months ago. She is a delightful young lady.

She told us about Albania when she visited our church. Van had been on a short term mssion trip there too, about ten years ago. He was familiar with this fascinating place, where God had been locked out for a generation or two by a Communist regime that considered Red China apostate. The church is now growing. When Van was there, the elders were in their late teens or early twenties, as the older people were burned out by the empty promises and lies of the Communists. Now those young people have aged a bit and made it a Gen-X church.

Gail had a wonderful story of visiting a home where she was asked to present the Gospel. Someone translated for her. In the midst of her presentation, the woman of the house stopped her and asked her why no one had come and told her about this before and she said she wanted to know this Jesus. She accepted Him on the spot. My eyes fill with tears just remembering this story.

I think of the wonderful Christmas we anticipate here in Miami Springs with all of our children, our daughters-in-law, our new grandson, and the Sewells. Then I think of Gail over there, so far from home. I thank God for her, and for all of those who serve Him so far away from home.

Here is Gail's prayer letter. I really like it. Let me know if you would like her email, and I will email it to you.

Dear praying friend,

Five years ago, a poster in a shop along the Boardwalk in Ocean City, New Jersey arrested my attention. The stark juxtaposition of orange and blue depicts a tiger running on a beach, chasing something at full speed. His four feet are tucked up in mid-stride beneath his massive body, not one of them touching the wet sand below. His tail is stretched taut behind him,
his eyes riveted, unwavering, fixed on something far away. Every fiber of
his being thrums with effort and concentration as he runs. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord…Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on to win the prize…Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector
of our faith… (Col. 3.23, Phil. 3.13,14, Heb. 12.2).

There’s nothing like living in another culture and language to humble a person. Every day I realize how much I don’t know. Cultural idioms and histories that shape Albanian worldview, nuances in language usage, cultural jokes, and unwritten rules… these are all beyond me, not to mention the “little” things like language syntax and vocabulary that help me to
communicate like a normal human being! What is worse, there is no cramming here, either; no resplendent burst of effort and intellingence will cut it.

This job of learning is a long-term job. Run like a tiger, Gail-girl. Steady on.
A transition in living situation and in ministry focus is coming soon for me. In January, I will move out of my host family’s house down to the Torchbearers-Albania Bible School to be an “RA” for the students for the spring term. The fourteen young adults received phenomenal training this fall through powerful Bible teaching, community living experience,
evangelism and village outreach, and mutual sharpening by interaction with other sticks of “iron”-- each other, the school leadership, and the visiting professors. This spring, I will live among them to provide encouragement, direction, prayer cover, and accountability. For my part, it will continue my language study as well as be a way I can meaningfully contribute to the ministry here in Erseka.

However, it will also offer its challenges, I know: not only the struggling through speaking and comprehending, but I will also be trying to shepherd fifteen (we are gaining one more student in the spring) independent little sheep. Think “freshman dorm.” Think “herding cats.” Think “hen yard at feeding time…” Pray for us. Pray for the students as they’ve scattered to
their homes after this life-transforming three months of school together. Pray for our reunion on Jan. 8. Also give thanks for some specific acts of God this fall: one student feels called to remain after the Bible School to work in full-time church planting in a churchless town. Another after being abandoned by her parents as a child has testified that she has come to
understand God’s acceptance for the first time ever. Another has struggled with suicide, another with an eating disorder, a third with life-blackening depression. Sometimes feet still drag on the ground a bit, but their gaze is fixed on the Life-giver Himself as they press on. Tiger eyes…

I can’t believe I’ve been here three months already. Two more weeks and my time with my host family is up. Oh, how I want them to know the wind of the Holy Spirit empowering them, how I want them to be racing toward the heavenly goal and not temporal, earthly pleasures!! Pray for tiger eyes here, too—not a “chasing after the wind,” but that they would “remember
their Creator in the days of their youth” – and Him not as a distant director of religious righteousness or something to take up and put down according to selfish whim, but as a personal, powerful, intimate Abba and Lord. “Anyone who is among the living has hope…” (Eccl. 9.4—also Eccl. 1.14, 12.1). I hope in confident expectation that God can and will save these beloved ones, my host family members. Miranda, the mother, is already
a believer but needs encouragement. Gjergji is the dad, Eva the eldest daughter (age 13), Ina the baby (age 10). The “Hound of Heaven” has tiger eyes. Pray with me that He catches His prize.

As for Bilisht and children’s ministry, I continue to be full of praise at the depth of discipleship the church leadership is doing with their members, especially their “middlers” group of 10-14 year olds. The kids do a Bible study on Friday afternoons then help lead the children’s program on Sat. morning based on that Bible study. Several are also beginning to learn
guitar, keyboard, or singing to help with the worship team. There are more adults in the church than I’ve seen before, too. Pray for their discipleship as well, that the members of both the Bilisht and the Erseke church will run with all-out effort, feet flying in rhythm to the Father’s heartbeat, with eyes fixed like the tiger’s.

Thanks, my friend. I miss you. Even in all these good things, even though I don’t want to be anywhere else in the world right now… I miss you. Enjoy for me the snow, the pink Alaska mountains, Little Gym “Show Week,” Christmas songs in your ears. I’m sending you a big hug and I’m praying also for you, that God would give you the grace to press on in His call on
your life, running like a tiger. Let us hold unswervingly to the faith we profess, for he who promised is faithful…(Heb 10.23).

God bless you,


GTD: Processing III
I'm not through this stage yet! But yesterday I did make even more headway towards completion. There were several times yesterday when I'd look to find Kellsey somewhere in the house just so I could show her the bin that I'd just processed through to empty. Part of the reason this is taking so long is that I haven't sequestered myself completely: I still answer the phone and monitor my emails. There are also the two to three things-to-do that have to be taken care of every morning, so I'm usually getting back to the GTD work about 11am. Today there won't be much progress as I'll be out of the office at meetings in Spartanburg from about 11am to 6pm. More GTD work tomorrow! (I'm gonna lick this before I go on vacation next Wednesday!) If you have any questions for me about anything involved in my GTD work, stick them in the comments. I'm compiling a FAQ of questions that are occurring to me that I think might be of interest in this whole process.
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Thursday, December 16, 2004

The Diamond Age Approaches: Slashdot has a post about a new technology which enables power to be supplied via an Ethernet cable. Currently it's up to 13Watts, with 39Watts on the horizon, but can one-plug-for-everthing be far behind? (As found in the future-tech of Neal Stephenson's book, The Diamond Age!)
The Uncommon Sense Gene. My father enjoyed telling me this story about his great-grandfather, who fought in the War Between the States (hereinafter "the War").

My father was born and raised in Atlanta. Both his parents descended from people who had come to America during the early 18th century, if not the late 17th century. Many came South. So he had many ancestors who fought in the War Between the States mostly for the Confederacy.

My father and mother moved to Miami from Atlanta in the mid-1940s, and I was born on Miami Beach in 1946. My dad's sister, my Aunt Frances, moved with her husband and children to Miami in the early 1950s. By then my Grandmother Stokes was a widow in Atlanta. Not long after my aunt moved here, my Grandmother decided to "break up housekeeping" in Atlanta and move here too. My father went up to her house to help her with that move.

One day, he told me, he and his mother were in her attic going through old papers. Dad came across a war veteran's pension certificate from the US government issued to his great-grandfather on his mother's side. Dad had understood that this gentleman, whose family name was Paris, had, like many others of Dad's ancestors, fought for the South in the War. He looked at this piece of paper and was confused. "Momma", he said, "I thought that Granddaddy Paris fought in the Southern army." He said that my grandmother become a little embarrassed when she saw the paper Dad was holding. "Well, Walter, he did fight for the South". The confusion deepened.

"But Momma, the US government didn't give pensions to Southern war veterans, did they?"

"No, son, the Yankees wouldn't have done that."

"Then where, Momma, did this thing come from?"

She told him that the Yankees in some battle had captured Granddaddy Paris. The Yankees gave him a choice after they captured him: He could go to one of the prisons in Pennsylvania and spend the rest of the war there. Or he could join the US Army, go out West, and "guard the Indians". If he joined the US Army, they promised, they would not put him in a unit that would fight rebels.

So he joined the US Army. And he got a pension. She said it was a secret, and no one in the neighborhood knew.

Somehow, that explains a lot of things.

GTD: Processing II
I'm still in the midst of processing my In-Box. The mechanics of this process are straightforward (see the chart in previous GTD post), but doing the work creates quite a bit of internal friction in me. For one thing, the In-Box pile is just huge (especially when I add the 600+ emails sitting in the Mail In-Box). I look at it and think, "A week for this? I need a month!"

The thing that I find revealed in me as I go through this process, though, is that my disorganization is a front for the real problem: procrastination. I've been happy to let things I really didn't want to deal with sit hidden in piles/files/cabinets. For some reason, I'm happier to think of myself as disorganized than as a procrastinator. Perhaps because the former seems more tied to circumstance and the latter more tied to character.

So as I pull out of my In Box things that haven't seen the light of day for some time, but ought to have seen said light, it's discouraging! Especially when I think, "Why haven't I dealt with this? Oh yeah, it's because I didn't want to deal with it."

But I can see that this is a good step towards actually doing the things I need to do, so: Onward!

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Wednesday, December 15, 2004

De-Amplified: From the Best of the Web (12/14/04, 14th item):
A warning from the pages of the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times:

Before you wear your cool yellow LiveStrong wristband at the hospital, think twice.

Several area hospitals are putting the brakes on Lance Armstrong's cancer organization fundraising bracelets. It's not cold-hearted backlash, but rather a safety precaution.

Patients wear colored bracelets to identify safety needs, said Lisa Johnson, vice president of patient services for Morton Plant Mease Health Care. Yellow stands for "do not resuscitate."

"Hey, have you seen my new bracelet? It's to die for."

GTD: Processing
As I read David's book over the past months, his points and suggestions reminded me of previous organizational attempts of mine. Yesterday's work of Collection reminds me of the Franklin Covey Seminar (when I attended it was pre-merger Franklin Quest) that I attended while a sophomore (I think) in college.

(It was a gift from my dad. I was having trouble keeping up with and keeping track of my school work and extra curricular responsibilities. See any pattern in my life here? If you've been reading this blog for very long, you might also notice a Stokes Family pattern as well -- if something is worth doing, it's worth researching it and availing yourself to as many ways of learning as possible: via books, movies, conversations, professional seminars, experience, etc.)

To return to topic: The key of the Franklin Quest seminar/system was that it provided a space (the planner-book) where you were to capture all the info you needed for your life & work. Depending upon how small you wrote, you could do this in a very small planner-book, or a planner-book that exceeded the size of a legal pad. You were supposed to keep your calendar, address book, to-do list, and project planning stuff all in the book. When you needed to put a new month in, you were supposed to take the oldest month out and index & archive it. If you had a plane ticket you needed in two weeks, or directions to a place you were going in a few days, they suggested you clip the tix & directions to their relevant dates. That way, when you opened up your planner on that relevant date, ta-daa! your tickets were right where you needed them!

I learned several good habits thanks to the Franklin Quest seminar. One - It's a really good idea to have your address book with you all the time, as you never know when you'll need to use it. Two - Writing things down on a calendar, and then having it accessible is also a good thing. Not writing everything in your calendar makes it pretty useless. Three - Long range / Life planning can be very helpful (more on this as it relates to GTD in a later post).

Finally, this is have-things-there-when-you-need-them is a good idea! The problem with the Franklin Quest program is some things are just physically too big to fit in the planner. Another problem was that once a month was indexed & archived, it was effectively lost to me. I might have just as well thrown that month away for all that I ever looked at it again. In the Franklin Quest system there was no approach to having a filing or library system outside of your planner-book. (I have no idea if the Franklin Covey System still has this liability.)

In his Collection discipline, David picks up this have-things-there-when-you-need-them value. The point of Collection in GTD is the same point as the put-everything-in-your-planner point of Franklin Quest: have everything where you can look at it and get to it. David is trying to build a place where you've got all your info in one reliable place/system so you can relax that you're not losing/missing anything when you sit down to do your work. What David has over Franklin is that he's building a system that can tolerate things larger than a planner-book and he's got a way to help you have a filing system to hold all your relevant stuff. (That filing system comes after you've "Processed".)

Remember that all my stuff is in my "In Box"? This is what I'll be doing today:

(You'll note that it's not the whole flowchart. That's ok, I'll get to the rest of it later. I'm already daunted by the volume of stuff in my In Box, so I'm not thinking about the rest of it!)
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Tuesday, December 14, 2004

LOTR Jaquandor has a wonderful post over at Byzantium's Shores about the differences between the Lord of the Rings movies and the book, especially as they pertain to dialogue.
GTD: Collection part 2
Well, I finished the "Mind Sweep" at about 6pm tonight. It was harder than I thought it would be. For one thing, it takes some serious concentration to try to think through every area of your life to see where the undone things are. David lists about 230 possible places in one's life where there might be "open loops" (uncompleted tasks/projects) lurking to help trigger the remembering.

I found that if I concentrated really hard on thinking of open loops the progress was kind of slow. But if I could think of a few in a row, then they would come much more quickly, until I would get distracted and the spell was broken. Two analogies come to mind for this: One is the stargazing phenomena where in order to see a dim star, you have to look to the side of it, rather than directly at it. The other is the kind of gaze one needs when sparring: "soft focus." Rather than concentrating all your focus on a particular body part of your opponent (eyes, shoulders, sternum), your gaze encompasses the entire body, enabling you to kind of peripherally view all possible movement. It's when you get distracted and concentrate your focus on a particular body part (like the fist moving toward you) that you get knocked on your rear (by Chacho's hooking back-kick).

Anyway, there was a great deal to think through while doing the Mental RAM dump. I filled up almost a half of a ream of paper (recycled) during the dump. There's some redundancy in the in-box piles. That's because there was so much stuff I was trying to remember, I sometimes couldn't remember in hour four if I'd written down X in hour one. So I wrote it down anyway, just to be on the safe side.

I also printed off everything in my digital Palm memo/to-do lists, which took about 1/3 a ream of paper. In the last GTD post, Katie commented that she couldn't imagine trying to do this with her email. Me neither. And neither does David. He recommends that emails in your digital in-box stay in your email programs inbox.

So, at the end of the day today I have two in-boxes: one physical, one digital. As far as I could manage, everything that I have to do, or want to do, from tomorrow to someday in the dim future, is in one of those two in-boxes.

Tomorrow I'll begin the "Processing" part of this journey. David promises that when I'm done with that step I'll have:
1 - trashed what I don't need
2 - completed any less-than-two-minute actions
3 - handed off to others anything that can be delegated [watch out, staff team!]
4 - sorted into my own organizing system reminders of actions that require more than two minutes
5 - indentified any larger committments (projects) that I now have
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Walter's (soft) drink of choice: I tried eggnog again last night. It's probably only the third time in my life where I've tried it. The first try was when I was in high school. Verdict: bleah. The second try was during college. Verdict: bleah. This time, I really liked it! It's like drinking melted ice-cream!
Is it redundant to have both "Kith and Kin" and "Community" in the blog name? I was wondering this yesterday. If you designate that blog is for both kith and kin, who else is included in "community"? Doesn't K&K cover everyone who would post? I guess what seems to me is that a kind of community is implied in the words kith &/or kin.

Or maybe "community" is modifying "blog" instead of "stokes". As in, it's a community blog for stokes kith and kin?

Also, I learned a new word today (from an article in First Things, where else? And why aren't you reading it by now?): meliorate.

Upon looking it up in my handy-dandy Concise OED I discovered that it means the same thing as: ameliorate. Kind of like the way flamable flammable means the same thing as inflamable inflammable. Anyone want to advance any theories on this phenomena?

10:30pm Corrected: because Kellsey is a better speller than I am.
Good books: Glenn Reynolds posted an informative and, IMHO, accurate review of Neal Stephenson's latest book series: The Baroque Cycle. It's a pretty quick read, too. Bottom line: He likes all three books.
GTD: Collection
David begins the process by having you collect every single actionable item. The first half of this collection is physical. Everything that isn't supplies, reference material, decoration or (working) equipment is collected and put into the "in" box. He walks you through the process by starting the collection at your desktop, to desk drawers, countertops, in cabinets, floors, walls, shelves, through "other locations" (which for me means my whole house). Yesterday I didn't get started until 3pm, so I was only able to do this part of Collection. You can see here that my credenza/file cabinet has turned into one big InBox. (And to answer Robert's question: no, it's not a baby wipe warmer [I have to share one with Aidan], it's a shredder.) It seems strange, although comforting, to see everything that I have to do all in one place.

Today I'll finish the Collection segment by doing the other half: "Mental Gathering: The Mind-Sweep." As David puts it:
". . .you'll want to collect anything else that may be residing in your psychic RAM. What has your attention that isn't represented by something already in your in-basket? . . . write out each thought, each idea, each project or thing that has your attention, on a separate sheet of paper . . . . You will likely not keep these pieces of paper (unless you decide that low-tech is your best organizing method), but it'll be handy to have them as discrete items to deal with as you're processing. . . . go for quantity. It's much better to overdo this process than to risk missing something."

Previous GTD post | Next GTD post

Monday, December 13, 2004

"Revised View of Handguns". I guess I need to say what I mean, and just not let an ambiguous comment like that hang there, Scott. My revised view is that a law abiding citizen ought to be permitted to own a handgun, particularly for defensive purposes, and, if he chooses, carry one concealed on his person, provided that he has a license. If someone decides to obtain a handgun for defensive purposes, he has a duty to obtain training, not simply in how to load and shoot it, but also how to deal with it responsibly, and he has to keep up the training.

Both the book that I referred to in my earlier post and the NRA video that I saw on keeping a handgun in one's home for self defense emphasize the world of hurt that comes down on someone who uses a handgun appropriately to defend himself or his family. (I meant it when I wrote "appropriately".) Arrest and investigation, even when the criminal process finally results in no charges being brought, is a terrible burden that can take months to resolve. Then there are the civil law suits that often follow. Finally, there is the emotional toll of being involved in a shooting, even when it was clearly defensive.

The book makes a very credible argument that the police cannot protect you against people who are crazed or just bad. He argues that the odds of surviving significantly increase when you have a concealed firearm, especially if you are a woman, when one of these people enters your life bent on mayhem. Frankly, I was a little depressed when I finished the book. "Is the world that the author describes really like that?" I thought. What depressed me is a sense that he is correct, and that most of us walk around with a sense of security that is simply not as well founded as we think.

I am working up to buying a gun. I am not quite there yet. As a city boy who never went hunting, this is really unchartered territory. But I will let you know what happens.
GTD: Day One
Today I'm beginning to implement David Allen's organizational and productivity approach called Getting Things Done. I'll be blogging my experience with it during the set-up process, which should take a couple of days.

I spent part of yesterday getting the supplies I'd need for the standard GTD model: file folders, "inboxes", filing space, clips/rubberbands, etc. One thing I didn't have was very much space to put any new folders, so I had to create some yesterday. After a trip to Staples and the Home Depot and with the judicious use of a circular saw and Dremel, I put together this $40 credenza/file"cabinet". Now I'll have both a staging area and a place for all the new files which I'll create.

Update: Next GTD post

Sunday, December 12, 2004

"The Shootist". I recently shared with some of the family my recent interest in handguns. (I will not post what pushed me in this direction.) In connection with this latest of my various enthusiasms, I read a very interesting book called "The Concealed Handgun Manual - How to Choose, Carry, and Shoot a Gun in Self Defense", by Chris Bird, a Texan. Bird's book is in its fourth edition. He appears to me, a total neophyte, to cover the waterfront and do it very well. I would recommend the book.

Subsequently, I took a basic defensive handgun course from an NRA instructor. It included firing 50 cartridges (six at a time) from a revolver, a 38 special, at a range in South Broward. If I had not been so tense and anxious with this first experience with a handgun, I think I would have had fun.

I'm not exactly sure about where I will go next with this, although I will apply for a concealed weapons permit. (The certification I obtained from the NRA instructor is enough to support the application for that permit.) I can say that my middle-of-the-road to leftish views on handguns have been thoroughly revised.

In "The Concealed Handgun Manual", the author writes about how the movies, particularly Westerns, depict handgun shooting. In most of them, he writes, the depictions are not accurate. But Bird recommends one Western, "The Shootist", with John Wayne. According to Bird, the people shooting the handguns in the movie did it the right way. After reading Bird's book and going through the course, I rented the movie and watched it this weekend. I think I see what he means.

"The Shootist" came out in 1976, and was the last Western and the last movie of any kind that Wayne made. It is a beautifully mounted film. It is set in Carson City, Nevada, in 1901, with meticulously crafted sets and wonderful outdoor scenes. John Wayne is comfortable, credible and familiar in his role as a famous, aging gun-fighter, euphemistically known as a "shootist", who is stricken with "the cancer" and comes into town looking for a place to die quietly. Instead, word of his arrival and his condition leaks out, even to the New York Times through the local newspaper editor. That editor and others try to profit in one way or another from the shootist's fame and notoriety.

I grew up watching Westerns in the late 40's, the 50's and the 60's, first on Saturday morning at the Circle Theater in Miami Springs, then on television, when at first the movie Westerns from the 30's and 40's were standard fare, and later when TV developed its own version of the genre in series after series. So I enjoyed the cameos and bit parts of other familiar actors in "The Shootist": Richard Boone ("Have Gun Will Travel"), Henry Morgan, Hugh O'Brian ("Wyatt Earp, Wyatt Earp, Brave Courageous and Bold, Long Live his Fame and Love Live his Glory, and Long May his Story be Told"), Lauren Bacall, John Carradine, Jimmy Stewart ("The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence", "The Far Country"), and Ron Howard (Opie from the "Andy Griffin Show", not a Western unless you count Western North Carolina).

I can't say that "the Shootist" ranks with Wayne's greatest Westerns. But the opening scene and the last gun-fight were quite satisfactory and Wayne was consistently good, even if the other actors weren't always up to snuff (especially Morgan) and even if some of the writing was bad, bad, bad. (The movie provides yet another example of Hollywood depicting Christians as legalistic, unforgiving, and profoundly in need of their own conversion.)(On second thought . . . )

I did appreciate the shooting. Here is what you do. Even when someone is shooting at you, you take care to aim and squeeze the trigger - site alignment and trigger control. Site alignment and trigger control. And you keep shooting. And you take cover. All those things "the Shootist" did in the last gun-fight. From what little I've learned, it was very well done in that respect.

Friday, December 10, 2004

A Blogroll is a list of links to other bloggers or columnists that the blogger thinks are worth reading. Some blogrolls are very sophisticated, like the ones found in the sidebar of Byzantium's Shores (the blogrolls begin with "the home port"). Other blogrolls are more straighforward, like Sean's "weblogs I read" (in sidebar). Those of you who read Drudge will be familiar with his list of columnists/pundits/bloggers that runs down the center of his page. That's a blogroll, too.

We have a nascent blogroll of our own under "non-lawyer" and "lawyer blogs". I'm interested in developing the kith&kin blogroll. Is there a blog/pundit/columnist whom you read regularly that you think others ought to read regularly? Put them in the comments section and I'll work on arranging them in our blogroll.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Christmas List. What sort of a loon posts his Christmas list on the blog of his family and friends? This one.

I thought I would structure the list according to the vendor. In every case, you can order of the internet.

American Morse Equipment

The phone number is(805) 549-8065

This titan of American industry makes the “Mity Box”. This is a small metal box in which one installs a tiny radio transceiver called “the Rockmite”. I have built the Rockmite. It consists of a small printed circuit board covered with little radio components, out of which emerge tiny cables and wires. At the end of the cables and wires are switches, jacks, and a potentiometer. But it has no real home. So American Morse offers a box for it, the “MityBox”. It sells for about $23.

Universal Radio

Universal Radio is an electronics store in Ohio (a state now held in some esteem in these parts) and sells equipment and parts for amateur radio operators and short-wave listeners. Universal Radio has a good web-site based catalog. I have bought things from them and I like them.

I would like to have a “Digital Multimeter”. This is a meter that measures voltage, current, and resistance. I use it to help me build my kits. I bought one from Universal a couple of years ago. It worked great until I left it out in the rain last month. I need another one now. Universal has two of them on its website:

The SE MM6162L digital multimeter, which sells for $21.95.

The Sinometer VX890C+ Digital Multimeter, which is more expensive at $29.95. (I thought I would tell you that this one is more expensive than the other one, just in case you missed it.)

I would also like to have a “coax switch”. “Coax” is short for coaxial cable, which is the sort of feedline ("transmission line") I use to contact my antennas outside the house to my equipment inside the house. I now have several transceivers in the house, and sometimes I have to disconnect the coax from one transceiver to connect it to another transceiver. If I had a coax switch, then I could just turn the knob and, voila!, the antenna has moved from one transceiver to another. Amazing.

There are several coax switches available. I like the Alpha-Delta switches, the “Delta- 2", which sells for $44.95, and the Delta-4, which is more expensive. The Delta-2 would be just fine. Don’t get the Delta-2N or the Delta-4N, because I use PL-259 connectors and not the N type. The N type would be for UHF and VHF antennas, and I only have one transceiver for those frequencies (so far). There is also a less expensive switch by Daiwa, the CS-201, for $21.95. Frankly, that one would be just fine.

Being a bit lazy, I would like to have a couple of pre-assembled coax cables. (I could make them myself.) These are short lengths of coax with connectors at each end. They help you string pieces of equipment together on the way out of the house to the antenna. I would like The RG-8X cables that are 12, 18, 24 and 36 inches long. Any one or more of them would be fine. They run from about $5 apiece to $6.50.

I would like a box of “coax-seal”. This is stuff you put around an antenna fitting that you have outside. It keeps the water and moisture from getting inside the fitting. It’s a perfect price: $2.99.

Another really nice gift would be a set of power pole connectors. They come in a kit of 12 pair, and I would like to have the 30 amp size. The webpage explains just what the “power pole” is. It’s a wonderful invention that allows you to have a universal plug to connect electrical things to power sources. There is no male-female problem. The connectors go both ways. But if it violates a religious scruple of any sort, feel free not to consider this item. Anyway, when you get to this page scroll down to Order #2228, item C30/PK/12. It runs $10.49. One or two of these kits would be great.

A Bencher Iambic Paddle would be nice to have. This is an advanced type of Morse Code key that plugs into a circuit that actually does the keying automatically. You will see two paddles. If you press one paddle, the electronic keyer in your transceiver will issue a series of perfect dots (we hams call them “dits”). If you press the other paddle, the keyer will issue a series of perfect dashes (we call them “dahs”). With an old fashioned telegraph key, called a “straight key”, one must push down the key and let it up to make dits and dahs. (I use a straight key, and there is no shame in it.) With a keyer and paddle, you just squeeze gently. The one I would like is #0458 BY-1, the Iambic Black Paddle. As you can see, people will spend a lot of money on these things.

Oak Hills Research.

I have bought three different kits from this company, and have had a great time building them. There are two things that I would like to have to “upgrade” the transceiver I built.

One is a kit to build a "keyer". This is the electronic circuit with which one would use the iambic paddle that I discuss above. You can install such a keyer in the OHR 100A transceiver I built about a year ago. You can find several keyers here. Be sure to get the one for the OHR 100A, not the OHR 500A. There is a basic keyer for $29.95 and one with a memory for $39.95. Why a memory? It is because there is a basic amount of information that one always telegraphs when he is involved in a conversation with someone new when using Morse Code. With a memory keyer, you can program that stuff so it automatically does the right "dits" and "dahs" while you peel a banana. But either the one without the memory or with the memory would be fine.

Another upgrade would be a “Ten-turn VFO Tuning Pot” for the OHR 100A. A “tuning pot” is a variable resister, called a potentiometer. This is something with a knob that tunes you up and down the band, sort of like those knobs that you turned to move up and down the broadcast band on the radios you had as a little person. There is already a "tuning pot" in my OHR 100A, but this one THIS ONE! has a much finer ratio. It costs $15.05.

Morse Technologies

This site is related to the Oak Hills Research site, and sells some small tools that help with kit building. The web page has a long list. Here are three items that everyone needs in his tool box:

MX-hbc 4" Brass Calipers. $3.95

MX-47553 Precision Tweezer Set. $5.95

Needle files, 12 piece set. $8.95

Small Wonder Labs

Small Wonder Labs produce “the Rock-Mite” kit. I mention the Rock-Mite above. I recently bought this kit and put together. It is incredibly tiny and puts out a very tiny signal. (I still haven’t worked anyone yet. I will announce it when I do.
I did hear someone from the Azores tonight. I called him, but I don't think he heard me. There were a lot of other hams tryng to work him. They did not have Rock-Mites.) Small Wonder Labs has a number of other nice kits. For those of you with money burning a hole in your pocket, there are several I would someday like to have:

The 7.00-7.15 / 40 mA version of the DSW-II. $150.00.

The 40 meter version of the SW+. $55.00.


Now we are getting serious.

This company builds the Lexus of amateur radio kits. Either of the following would be fine to put in my stocking.

The KX1 Ultra Portable CW Transceiver Kit. $279.00 in its most basic form.

The K2 HF Transceiver. $599.00 in its most basic form.


The “Buddipole” is a portable antenna. This would be something I would take on a camping trip. It is way cool.

Frankly I would like the Buddipole Deluxe Package Its on sale for $390. But the basic Buddipole would be fine. I can add on later.

So, there it is. My Christmas list. Or you can get me some tube socks. I like white.
Famous British philosopher changes his mind: there is a God. Well, duh!

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

US Teens Among Worst in Math. The WSJ today reports that "fifteen your-olds in the US rank near the bottom of industrialized countries in math skills, ahead of only Portugal, Mexico and three other nations . . . " A left-handed compliment to Mr. Coski.

The WSJ report also states: "[E]conomists say [that this] is bad news for long-term economic growth." As would say, "What would we do without economists."

Monday, December 06, 2004

Musicians and the Internet. A recent report on musicians' attitude toward the internet is generally a positive one and appears to support what I understand to be part of Amplifier's business plan.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Steven Ambrose' book, the Wild Blue, tells the story of an Army Air Force Squadron of B-24s in WWII that, in the latter part of the war, flew from a base in Cerignola, Italy, to bomb targets in Germany and Austria. The central character of Ambrose' book is George McGovern, who commanded one of the bombers, the Dakota Queen. During the return from a bombing mission over Wiener Neustadt in Austria, McGovern's crew notified him that the last of their ten 500 pound bombs had stuck in the bomb rack. This was a dangerous situation. They could not land the plane this way.

So McGovern dropped his bomber out of the formation, went to a much lower altitude, and felt the plane jump as the crew loosed the bomb from the rack and it fell away. They were approaching the Austrian-Italian border and McGovern watched the bomb descend. "It went down and hit right on a farm in that beautiful green part of Austria", McGovern told Ambrose. "It was almost like a mushroom, a big, gigantic mushroom. It just withered the house, the barn, the chicken house, the water tank. Everything was just leveled." A crewman said "We didn't mean to do that, we certainly didn't try to do that".

"McGovern glanced as his watch", Ambrose writes. "It was high noon. He came from South Dakota. He knew what time farmers eat." McGovern said it made him sick to his stomach, and "I could not help but feel the deepest remorse and shameful guilt for the people of the village. Following the mishap, I couldn't sleep . . . "

In 1985, a director of Austrian television asked McGovern to stand for an interview for a documentary on Austria in WWII and he wanted to know how McGovern felt about bombing Austrian targets. During the interview, McGovern refused to express any regret for bombing military targets, although, he said, "I do regret the damage that was done to innocent people. And there was one bomb I've regretted all these years." When asked about that bomb, he told about the farm.

Later, when the documentary appeared on Austrian TV, the station received a call from an Austrian farmer who had seen and heard McGovern. He knew it was his farm that was hit, because it was high noon on a clear day and exactly as McGovern described the incident.

"I want you to tell him", the man went on, "that no matter what other Austrians think, I despised Adolph Hitler. We did see the bomber coming. I got my wife and children out of the house and we hid in a ditch and no one was hurt. And because of our attitude about Hitler, I thought at the time that if bombing our farm reduced the length of that war by one hour or one minute, it was well worth it."

The TV sation call McGovern and told him. Ambrose writes, "For McGovern, it was 'an enormous release and gratification. It seemed to just wipe clean a slate'."

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Killing a disabled infant is not morally equivalent to killing a person, according to Peter Singer. See the commentary on this position in the New York Sun by Alicia Colon.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Boys trailing girls in the classroom: what a politically incorrect thing to say! See in this USA Today article where our uni-sex ideology has gotten us in the education market.
Freeing Christ from "Christmas" Picking up again the Christ/Christmas problem that we discussed in a previous post and its comments, take a look at the "commentary" piece on that subject that was on NPR yesterday. NPR not only had a self-described "Christian" give that commentary, the commentator actually sounded like a Christian, and he had some good points.
David Brooks II. For a refreshing NY Times read, check out "Who is John Stott?" (I like the title--sounds a bit Ayn Rand-ish, eh?)

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Getting Things Done
I just finished reading GTD by David Allen. Now that I've read through his whole system, I'm going to try to implement it, soup-to-nuts. I've blocked out the week of December 13 to make that happen. Would Kith&Kin readers be interested in me blogging my experience day by day? I don't want to bore anyone, so I'll only do it if folks want me to do so. (I ask because I've spoken with some K&K readers about the book and they seemed interested in Mr. Allen's approach. And I know that Dad would be interested!)
Children "Home Alone in America". See the Amazon review of this interesting study of what happens to little children whose parents both go off to work.
"Because women are economically vulnerable and dependent on men . . . " So explains a woman from Kenya with HIV. She organized a support group for women with HIV and AIDS, according to this article. This is her explanation for what is happening in Africa to women there. The article is written as we learn that half of the population with HIV or AIDS are women.

Her idea of the etiology of HIV/AIDS is important to consider. There are two problems, in her view, an economic one and a social one. Women do not have enough money. They therefore enter into vulnerable and dependent relationships with men to solve that problem. By posing the issue this way, the answers follow: women need more money and they should remain independent of men.

I can think of other women who were economically vulnerable and dependent on men at very significant points in their lives. They did not, however, contract HIV/AIDS. One is Carol, my wife, and another is my mother. We all know women like this. They are, of course, in the Bible too. I think of Ruth and her relationship with Boaz and of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and her relationship with Joseph.

You can, of course, distinguish Carol, Juanita, Ruth, and Mary, from the woman in Africa. But that's the point. The distinguishing characteristic is not simply money nor is the solution to have nothing to do with men. An argument that reduces the etiology to money and men leads to political solutions that create their own problems: the substitution of the state for "men" in the power struggle, as if the state will ultimately be more benign, and a refusal to admit that what a person believes makes the essential difference.

We know what makes the difference between this poor African woman and Ruth. "Thy God," Ruth the Moabite said to her mother-in-law, Naomi, "will be my God". "Thy land", the ancient land of Judah where in the best of times the Lord reigned in the hearts of men and women and where he reigned in Boaz' heart, "will be my land."

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

C.S. Lewis Resources Website. Austin Carr sent me an email linking an essay related to CS Lewis that he thought interesting. Its on a website that a college professor put up with C.S. Lewis resources and discussions on it.